Sunday, February 28, 2016

Test your knowledge of Red Lake, Ont.

1. What is the name of the bay where the town of Red Lake is located?
A. Big Bay
B. East Bay
C. Deep Bay
D. Howey Bay
2. The stream that creates a rapids at the end of Trout Bay is called what?
A. Douglas Creek
B. Trout Creek
C. West End Creek
D. Chukuni River
3. When boating westward from the town, the long point with the fire-fighting base is called what?
A. The Point of No Return
B. Long Point
C. Forestry Point
D. Cape Point
4. The first big body of water west of town is commonly called what?
A. Big Bay
B. The Stretch
C.  East Bay
D.  Bay With No End
5. On the north side of that first big body of water is Red Lake's largest island. What is it?
A. White Horse Island
B. Fisher Island
C. McKenzie Island
D. Wolf Island
6. The stream that forms the outlet of Red Lake is called what?
A. English River
B. Douglas Creek
C. Parker Creek
D. Chukuni River
7. What stream forms the main inlet to Red Lake?
A. Chukuni River
B. Douglas Creek
C. Parker Creek
D. English River
8. Besides great fishing, what is Red Lake most known for?
A. Sunsets
B. Gold
C. Old Hudson Bay trading post
D. Woodland caribou
9. What is the closest approximate population of Red Lake?
A. 10,000
B. 6,000
C. 4,000
D. 2,000
10. Which community is not part of Red Lake Municipality?
A. Ear Falls
B. Cochenour
C. Madsen
D. Balmertown
11. Which fish species is not found in Red Lake?
A. Muskellunge
B. Smallmouth bass
C. Tulibee
D. Channel catfish
12. Which is an invasive species of Red Lake?
A. Emerald shiner
B. Rainbow smelt
C. Rock bass
D. Rusty crayfish
13. Red Lake has how many traffic lights?
A. Three
B. Two
C. One
D. Zero
14. What is the name of the provincial park west of Red Lake?
A. Pakwash Provincial Park
B. Quetico Provincial Park
C. Wabakimi Provincial Park
D. Woodland Caribou Provincial Park
15. If a person portages a canoe north from Pipestone Bay what river system does he enter?
A. Chukuni River
B. Mississippi River
C. Churchill River
D. Bloodvein River

1. D
2. A
3. C
4. B
5. C
6. D
7. A
8. B
9. C
10. A
11. D
12. B
13. C
14. D
15. D

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Does this look really tasty to you?

If you looked at the two photos above and started salivating, phone the Guiness Book of World Records immediately. You must be the only whitetail deer in the world that can use a computer or smart phone!
Nothing makes a better late-winter snack to a whitetail than this stuff -- beard lichens or as most of us know it, Old Man's Beard.
Sometime in the past few billion years, algae and fungi made a deal. It was a "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," kind of pact. It probably goes right back to the time of the cyanobacteria that made the stromatolites which we talked about two postings ago. We can surmise that because cyanobacteria horned-in on the deal too. It went like this, algae and cyanobacteria photosynthesize but freeze while fungi don't photosynthesize but, at least some of them, don't freeze. In the words of Rick in Casablanca, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Algae and fungi may have been the first to create symbiosis which was so popular it became the basis for life on Earth. Algae created food and fungi protected the algae and they called their partnership Lichens. It was pure chemistry and, speaking of chemistry, the lichens started making their own chemical concoctions, things like acids, that could crumble the rocks they were clinging to and helped keep competing vegetation away as well as predators.
Fast forward to just mere thousands of years ago and First Nation peoples, who must have had a ball trying out various "plants" for things, discovered that Old Man's Beard contained usnic acid. OK, maybe they didn't call it usnic acid back then but what they did know was Old Man's Beard was a great thing to use as a poultice on cuts and wounds. If you did so the wound didn't become infected. Today, we know that the beard contains usnic acid which is anti-bacterial.
Old Man's Beard is an example of an arboreal or tree lichen. There are many more species on the ground. According to my "bible" on the subject: Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski, there are 700 species of lichens in these parts.
One of the most noticeable is the grey Reindeer Lichen (better known in our area as caribou lichen) which covers large areas of rock in the Boreal Forest, including all around Red Lake. Woodland caribou have evolved to eat this stuff and in fact, depend on it and arboreal lichens in the winter.
Caribou, and deer, have four-chambered stomachs which must have something to do with their ability to eat the lichens while humans cannot. Some thoughtful First Nation's person must have considered this and, according to my book, discovered that he could safely consume the three-fourths-digested lichens that were now in the fourth chamber of the caribou's stomach.
Like I say, I think they had a lot fun trying out things back then.
Reindeer lichen is one of the faster-growing lichens and lives for 30-50 years. By contrast Yellow Map Lichens can live for 4,500 years!
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Next step in our continuous improvements

Brenda and Tommy Cieplik in Lund SSV, now with auto bilge pump
One of the hallmarks of Bow Narrows Camp is our relentless program to improve our facilities and equipment.
In just the past few years we have installed the world's best septic system -- the EcoFlo biofilter -- that sends all our waste water through tanks of peat moss before it is released back into the ground. It is light years ahead of conventional gravel-sand systems and far exceeds all requirements.
We also have the world's best water filtration plant, sending delicious, crystal-clear water to every tap and cabin in camp. Our water treatment plant has a triple-backup system to ensure all our water not only meets health standards but far, far exceeds it. It ranks with the world's finest bottled water.
Years ago we converted our entire fleet of outboard motors to quiet, powerful-yet-excellent-trolling, 20 h.p. four-stroke Hondas, and in a special nod to our older customers, made sure all of these were electric-start. No more yanking starting ropes. You just push a button.
We also added dock-assists at every dock in camp. These uprights look something like a swim ladder and give you something to hold onto when getting in and out of the boats. They are positioned so you can use the boat seat as a step while having both hands on the uprights. They have been universally welcomed, including by younger guests.
We also have been switching our boats from the conventional Lund models to the new SSV types that have double walk-throughs and floors throughout. (Even our older boats have floors in the bows.)
This year we will add something to every boat that I suspect will be hailed by all -- automatic bilge pumps. Any time it rains the bilge pump will come on automatically and pump the boat dry. Will anybody feel nostalgic at not needing to bail the boat with the scoop any more? I didn't think so!
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Saturday, February 20, 2016

We are turning the corner on winter

Evening scene in Nolalu, near Thunder Bay
The days are noticeably longer now. In fact, we are only a month away from the equinox and when you take twilight into account, we nearly have 12 hours of light right now.
The weather has turned unseasonably warm, going above freezing and raining. No one likes this. We would rather it was below freezing than watch our 30 inches of snow and our snow-packed roads turn into slop.
The scene is now set for a condition that will greatly benefit timber, or grey, wolves. Tomorrow the mercury is going to recede to about -12 C and a sturdy crust will form atop the snow. In previous years we have seen this crust become so strong it would support the weight of a human. It will very likely support wolves who spread their modest weight on four fairly-wide paws. Deer and moose, however, will plunge through.
The advantage will go to the predator.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

More August-caught fish

Jason Williams with a beautifully-spotted big northern pike
Kyle Kelley's 38-inch pike shows a chain pattern
Two postings ago I recommended coming in August for big pike. Here's more proof from our anglers last year. As the photo on the right shows, there were some gargantuan walleye caught then too.
Davis Beyer with one heck of a walleye from last August
Incidentally, if you are a new reader of this blog you might wonder why we talk about anything other than fishing. After all, Bow Narrows is a fishing camp, you might think.
We are a fishing camp, that's for sure, but we are more than that too. And by "we" I mean more than just Brenda and me. It includes our guests, friends and neighbours. We are all about fishing but then we are also all about history of the area, nature, environmental stewardship and living in harmony with the outdoors. The blog tries to reflect this diversity.
There are nearly 1,000 blog postings here, the majority of them about fishing. If you do a search for walleye or northern pike in the little search window at the top left, you will come up with hundreds of articles. To the best of our ability, we don't keep posting the same thing year after year but just if there is something new to report. All the information is still there, you must just call up what you want.
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Monday, February 15, 2016

Stromatolites made life as we now know it

Bob Leis with book and sample of Red Lake stromatolite at camp
Take a deep breath. Does it make you thankful for stromatolites? Well, it should because without them there wouldn't be anything to breathe. Stromatolites are credited for first creating the oxygen that we and almost everything else need for life.
And incredibly, some of the first stromatolites to appear on Earth, a long, long time ago, were right at Bow Narrows Camp at the west end of Red Lake, Ontario!
The entire story is chronicled in a new book: Stomatolites: Ancient, Beautiful and Earth-Altering by Bob Leis and Bruce Stinchcomb with illustrations by Terry McKee.
Bob came to camp last summer to check out the Red Lake stromatolites which at 2.925 billion years old, are among the oldest in the world.
Let's start at the beginning, that is, the beginning of the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago. The brand new planet was nothing like it is today. Geologists call the first 800 million years the Hadean Era. Hadean as in Hades. The Earth's crust was molten, volcanoes everywhere and bombarded by lots of meteors.
The atmosphere was composed of carbon dioxide and methane. Temperatures were extreme and there was no life.
After 800 million years things had cooled down enough that the liquid rock turned solid and was largely covered by water. And right away, at least in geologic terms, life began and started what is called the Archean Era which lasted until 2.5 billion years ago.
The very first life is thought to have been single-celled bacteria that did not need oxygen. But before long, again in geologic terms, cyanobacteria appeared. These were photosynthetic and are the organisms that would eventually create our breathable atmosphere and left the mostly-trace fossils that we call stromatolites.
The cyanobacteria formed dense mats in shallow areas of water. As they continued to grow they calcified and trapped sediments in layers that became stromatolites.
A byproduct of photosynthesis is the production of free oxygen and for the first two billion years that cyanobacteria created free oxygen it was gobbled up by iron molecules to create iron oxides -- hematite and magnetite. This was laid down in layers called Banded Iron Formations. Those formations are what we mine today. So, along with thanking stromatolites for the air we breathe, thank them also for the steel that is the backbone of our modern civilization!
Once all the iron had been bonded with oxygen, the free oxygen went into the atmosphere and this began the Proterozoic Period 2.5 billion years ago to 500 million years ago. Then stromatolites declined because invertebrates and vertebrates evolved and ate them!
Stromatolites are still forming today but they are rare compared to ancient times.
Incidentally, the stromatolites that can be seen on the shores of Red Lake, right in front of Cabin 10  and all the way to Trout Bay, are among the oldest in the Canadian Shield. There is a photo of a sample from camp in the book.
If you have never heard of stromatolites and the role they played in life on Earth it is probably because their existence wasn't totally accepted until about 1960 although they were first discovered in the late 1800s. It just seemed unfathomable that life could have started so quickly, so long ago.
You can buy Stromatolites: Ancient, Beautiful and Earth-Altering at It is published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
I got my copy directly from Bob Leis who hails from Northern Wisconsin. He autographed it with "Remember that pond scum rules!"
It is a beautiful book, full of photographs of stromatolites including polished specimens, and diagrams that help explain the whole history. I highly recommend it.
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Friday, February 12, 2016

Consider a later-season pike fishing trip

Fred Polich caught and released this 40+incher in early August last year

Many Bow Narrows anglers are catching their personal bests on pike now

August is a tremendous time to target big northern pike
If you check out the Availability listing at right you will see we still have room most weeks in August and September. I don't think most people realize this is a tremendous time to fish, especially for big northern pike. I would recommend August, in particular, because the weather is usually nice and warm and the aquatic weeds haven't started to die-off for the season so it is obvious where to fish.
We have noticed that both walleye and northern pike go into a feeding frenzy about the time it is noticeable that the days are getting shorter, around the first week of August, and then continue that binge right through to September. I think the fish realize that summer is almost over and they better stock-up while the pickings are good.
Too many people, I feel, only consider walleye fishing on their trip. You can certainly catch them late in the season here, especially right in the narrows where camp is located. But we catch lots of walleye almost all the time so there isn't that much difference.
Northern pike, however, could be at their absolute best in August. Here's why: our pike are at their most active when the water is warm. Red Lake is at its warmest in July and cools off throughout August. That cool-down moves the walleye from the shallows to deeper water. Small walleye are a major prey item for huge pike. So as the month of August progresses, there are increasingly fewer walleye in the shallows where the pike like to hang out and as a result they are hungry and easier to catch.
To understand this, we must first shatter a stereotype that seems to be set in cement in the minds of so many anglers. This is the myth of fish going to deeper water in the summer when the lake is at its warmest. Wrong! Not at our camp at least. Red Lake is a deep-water lake. We have bays that are so deep they never warm up and they keep the rest of the lake from ever getting too warm. Our fish crave warm water. Fortunately, we also have shallow bays where the water does get warmer and these are the places stuffed with fish, right until the water turns cold again, then the fish actually go out to the deep spots because the water is warmer there.
I understand that other lakes are not like this. Shallow lakes in other places just get too warm in the summer and the fish either move to deeper water or turn lethargic. Not Red Lake! OK?
Virtually nothing changes in walleye and northern pike fishing until about the first week of August. They are all in the shallows and we do great fishing for them. Then we start to get some cool nights and the walleye begin to migrate. We still do great but we begin to do better in the narrows and mid-depth areas that might be staging grounds before they go to their deepest spots in September.
The pike, however, really like hanging in the weed beds and are discovering they have fewer walleye to pick on. This makes them more vulnerable to angling. This is also the time to pull out the larger lures, things that could imitate small walleye like Suicks and six-inch Spro as well as surface baits like the Zara Spook and the Live Target Walking Frog.
Toward the end of August we can begin to catch pike on dead bait again and this technique is especially good in September when the water is at its coolest.
I can say with confidence that I have never seen so many big pike in Red Lake as there are right now. We had so many of our long-time guests tell us last summer that they caught their personal bests, all above 40 inches and many in the mid-40s. We have even got them over 50 inches in recent years.
The anglers boating these monsters are getting them throughout the season while spending the majority of their time fishing for walleye. I suspect they would even do better if they spent the majority of their time casting for pike and came in August.
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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Deep snow is starting to become a problem

Deer using our driveway watch the neighbour

Our home's big propane tank is about buried

Cork and I aren't the only ones walking the road
We got nine inches of snow last weekend and that now puts about 30 inches on the ground.
That's good for some things and bad for others. It's good for keeping the ground from freezing. During my daily snowshoe walk with Cork the end of my walking stick comes up muddy when I plunge it down through the snow in low areas -- unfrozen even though the temperature is dropping to -20 C to -30 C at night (-4  F to -20 F)
The snow depth is beginning to restrict the movements of deer. They now must leap rather than walk and that takes a lot more energy. Whenever possible, they stick to traveling beneath conifers where the snow depth is less or they simply take to the road.
The deer could be in serious trouble since we haven't even started the time period when we typically get the most snow. That is March when we could get as much snow as the rest of the year combined.
The deep snow is also insulating the lakes resulting in less ice than normal. That's bad for snowmobiling but should be good come spring. We might be in for an early ice-out.
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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Today's timber wolf photos

For size comparison, 75-pound Cork in same place as second photo
This is a splendid example of a timber wolf, also known as a grey wolf.
This shot came from my oldest trail camera but one which always seems to be in the right place at the right time. It's about 500 meters from our house here in Nolalu.
I'm pretty sure that this is the same animal we saw from our front window two or three weeks ago. He was trotting through the deep snow fairly easily and seemed destined right for our neighbour's across the road. He got about half way across our field when he changed his mind and came back to our bush. I at first feared that he had intended to go after the neighbour's dogs but on further inspection of tracks in the field I realized he was just following a deer.
Nolalu seems to be a wonderful place for wolves. I get photos of them regularly on my trail cameras which are just placed on our own 65 acres. There seem to be many more wolves here than at our camp on Red Lake. The reason is almost certainly that there is a high population of whitetail deer in Nolalu while Red Lake is still one of the few places with almost nothing but moose.
Wolves prey on moose, that's for sure, but the bigger moose are much harder for them to kill. It definitely takes a pack of wolves to bring down a moose and I suspect it is pretty risky business. One clip from a big hoof and a wolf is probably done for.
Deer are much easier. This wolf seems to be hunting by himself and as the photos show, he is not lacking for food. Check out that muscular neck in the first photo in particular.
This is a big fellow, twice the size of Cork, our 75-pound chocolate Labrador. Could he weigh 150 pounds? I can't tell but I do know that wolves are always lighter than you would expect, a function of having zero fat on their bodies.
The question often arises about safety when around these big canines. I have never personally known anybody who was either attacked or threatened by a wolf. They are almost supernatural in their ability to avoid people.
It is true that they can be a threat to dogs. About once a decade, it seems to me, there will be a rash of wolves killing dogs here in Nolalu. Eventually the offending wolves are seen and shot and it always seems to be just two individuals, a male and a female. That probably indicates the dog-killing has something to do with reproductive behaviour, but reproduction occurs every year and not the dog-killing so I don't really know what is going on.
Wolves are pretty single-minded. They want ungulates -- deer and/or moose.
In deer territory there are obviously far more wolves and when deer expand into traditional moose territory the resulting increase in predators means more moose are killed than normal.
It's a double whammy for the poor moose. The deer also bring with them a fatal parasite called brainworm that devastates moose populations.
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Friday, February 5, 2016

Camp boats in evening

Ciepliks photo of Pipestone Bay
They went far and wide, the boats, after supper
seeking fish, seeking solitude, seeking grace.
Now they come flying back, racing the darkness
leaving widening Vs behind them
watched by the Evening Star

The lake and the sky meld together
The boats skim the heavens as easily as the water
They give wide berths to islands of dark matter
and search the horizon for silver openings,
trails that lead them vaguely onward

The path flows narrower and narrower
twisting through a blackness that crowds in everywhere but ahead
Suddenly there springs the lights of camp
A mother calling her children in.
They have made it home.
Vic Fazekas photo of Bow Narrows camp

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What happens to fish after line breaks?

My brother, Bill Baughman, removes a hook that was caught deep in a pike's mouth
I think we have all had a sinking feeling when our line snapped and we realized a fish was stuck with an ungainly lure in its mouth. Did it eventually die?
Probably not, at least if it was a northern pike, according to a study by a researcher at Carleton University in Ontario.
Chris Pullen placed crankbaits that had two sets of treble hooks in the mouths of northern pike and then monitored them to see if and when they were able to get rid of the lures.
On half the lures he pinched down the barbs. He also placed the lures in the backs of the mouths of half the fish and in the front on the rest.
Lures with the pinched down barbs came out in just 24 hours. Lures with barbed hooks took longer  but surprisingly fish that were hooked deep in the mouth shed the lures quicker than the ones hooked in the front. That could be the case, he speculated, because the fish just aren't bothered by the front-hooked lures so much and don''t try to get rid of them as fast.
The results could easily be different for other species, he noted. Northern pike are a hardy group, better able to withstand stresses that might kill other fish.
When it comes to pinching down barbs, my advice is to always do it on lures with more than one treble hook. The fish do not seem to get away during the fight and it makes removing the hooks way easier once you get them into the boat. It also makes it easier to take the hooks out of yourself, always a big danger in lures with multiple trebles.
For lures with a single treble or with just single hooks, I would suggest not pinching down the barb unless you must do so for legal reasons. These are pretty easy to remove from the fish and they rarely hook you.
Thanks to Bow Narrows angler Tommy Cieplik of the famous Cieplik videos found on this blog for bringing this study to our attention.
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Monday, February 1, 2016

Last call for people with reservations to pay deposits

It has been a month and a half now since I wrote and e-mailed groups with reservations asking them to secure them with deposits.
There are still several that I have not heard from.
I will call them this week and if I still can't get a response, those cabins will be put back on the Availability list.
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